Tying the knot without a face mask in China

BEIJING (AP) — Lovebirds in China are embracing a sense of normalcy as the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be under control in the country where it was first detected.

Chen Yaxuan and Dou Di exchanged vows in front of over 500 guests in an unmasked wedding on December 12 — a day called “double twelve” and considered auspicious timing.

Servers wore masks, but guests were not required to. They just had to show a green health code, showing they had only been in low-risk areas and not tested positive in the previous 14 days.

A year into the pandemic, most people feel the situation is under control if not back to normal. The National Health Commission reported just 27 new cases on December 28, a dramatic decrease from China’s peak.

The first half of 2020 was a nightmare for the multibillion-dollar wedding industry. Many couples were forced to postpone their nuptials after large gatherings and events were banned.

It wasn’t until late April that a turning point appeared.

Groom Dong Yangfeng and bride Wang Sai near the Forbidden City in Beijing. PHOTOS: AP
Bride Chen Yaxuan walks by staff wearing masks during a wedding banquet in Beijing

Those who had to push back their weddings helped revitalise the industry when restrictions were lifted, keeping the shrinkage of market below six per cent in 2020, according to iiMedia Research CEO and Chief Analyst Zhang Yi.

Ning Jingyu, the wedding planner for Chen and Dou, believes the future is bright. Her studio has organised 33 weddings in the second half of 2020, down 50 per cent from the same period the previous year.

“The business is not as good as it was the same time last year, but I think it’s on an uptrend, considering the amount of consultancy and clients’ demand for weddings,” she said.

On a recent morning, at least seven couples showed up for photo shoots near the Forbidden City, a historic area in Beijing popular for wedding photos, even in freezing temperatures.

They included Dong Yangfeng and Wang Sai, both 27 years old. The computer science professionals had to cancel their original wedding plans because of the pandemic.

Worried that the pandemic might return, they decided to hold their nuptials as soon as possible. Dong said though that what their wedding will look like depends on the frequently changing virus rules.

“If the national policies allow, we surely want to have a nice wedding,” he said. “But if the policies don’t allow or if there’s a reemergence of the pandemic, we’ll make it simple.”